Bells ring out for Terry from Todmorden's 100th birthday

Probably the country’s oldest active bell ringer has celebrated his 100th birthday – and intends to continue ringing the changes.

By Abigail Kellett
Monday, 14th March 2022, 12:00 pm

Terry Halstead, from Todmorden, took up the hobby when he was in his teens and still at school.

“Four of us lads went to Christ Church, in Todmorden, and they agreed to teach us the art. It was probably a mistake – four teenagers were something of a handful – but I have loved it ever since,” he said.

“I continued when Christ Church closed as a Church, and moved to St Mary’s in Todmorden, where a new set of eight bells were installed by the local ringers, seven newly cast, and one chiming bell taken from Christ Church. As I got older St Mary’s proved to be a wise move. “It is a ground-floor ringing room, there are no well-worn stone steps to climb.”

Terry Halstead, from Todmorden

A member of the Lancashire Association of Change Ringers since 1951 he can still pull his weight even though accidents do happen.

“It is quite dangerous in fact,” he explained. “You can have a nasty accident if caught by the rope. I have seen friends dragged quite high in an instant.”

Bell ringing, however, is not the only time Terry faced danger head on.

As a young man of 18, in a boring desk job, he joined the forces during the war and became an engineer in the RAF working on the huge Merlin engines on the four-engine Handley Page Halifax bomber.

Under the huge Halifax bomber at the aircraft museum

“I specialised in changing the engines which was invariably outdoors, and I even made myself a set of tools to reach some of the more awkward parts.”

He worked in various airfields and was offered the chance of becoming a flight engineer but rejected it. “I felt safer on the ground.” It was when he was staying in Bristol whilst carrying out extra training on the Bristol Hercules engine that he met his future wife, Audrey. She sadly died in 2003.

His most lucky escape was when he was due to go on a test trip with a pilot and some trainee navigators. “The aircraft took off before I could get on board, but it crashed and all on board died. It was a very lucky escape for me.”

As part of the numerous celebrations for his 100th birthday, a friend arranged a trip to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, where the staff made him welcome and allowed him inside the Handley Page Halifax bomber to renew memories from those wartime years.

Terry with the Mayor of Todmorden.

When he left the forces, he was sent to Wales to train as a plumber which was to become his future profession. He worked in and around Todmorden all his working life.

Terry’s work within the church – he has been a Lay Reader since 1961 taking many church services and after his retirement, funerals – led to him being given the Maundy money by the Queen in the annual ceremony which was held at Wakefield Cathedral in 2005.

He also enjoyed being Dame in the annual pantomimes at Christ Church.

Following his love of music and singing he became a member of Todmorden Choral Society for many years until his recent retirement.

With two sons, two grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren life is still full for the active 100-year-old who continues to ring the changes.

A peal was rung at St Chad, Saddleworth in celebration. It comprised of 5100 changes taking 2 hours and 53 minutes to complete.

A party was held at Walsden Cricket Club, Todmorden. The Mayor of Todmorden, Councillor Pat Taylor and her Consort also attended, enjoying the celebrations with Terry, his family and friends.

The Mayor of Todmorden said: "I was honoured to join Terry for his 100th birthday party. Not all of us get to celebrate our centenary in such fine fettle. Terry's long and active life is an inspiration for us all."